Friday, 22 May 2015

The Waiting Room, May 21, 2015 ***

By Kylie Trounson, Melbourne Theatre Company
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until June 27, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***
Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday May 22, 2015, and later in print. KH.

William McInnes (Carl), Belinda McClory (Zoe), Brett Cousins (Raf): Photo Jeff Busby

The Waiting Room, by Kylie Trounson, is in equal parts annoying and entertaining theatre because some didactic dialogue and pointless scenes undercut the otherwise affecting drama, wacky comedy and exceptional cast.

Trounson is the daughter of Australian IVF pioneer, Alan Trounson, and her script tries to cover far too much ground:  her father’s early successes and failures, her parents’ marriage, ethical debates about IVF, two childless couples facing IVF in 1978 and 2012 and a single woman seeking a sperm donor.

In addition to all of these narrative elements and a pile of research, Trounson, played by Sophie Ross, places herself bang in the middle of her play to act as – what? – a narrator, observer, participant?

And here is the maddening bit: Kylie, the character, keeps interrupting the action and interaction of her characters to talk to us, her dad and others about why she is writing the play, agonising over its themes and narrative threads and convincing us why she should be in it.

Although this unbalances the play, it is saved by impeccable performances by Greg Stone as the unassuming Alan, William McInnes as Professor Carl Wood and comic cameos, Belinda McClory as a despairing IVF patient, Brett Cousins as her daffy partner, Kate Atkinson as a bevy of women and Ross as Kylie.

If writer, Trounson, and director, Naomi Edwards, excised all informational, expository dialogue that sounds like transcripts of interviews with research subjects, and all preachy or philosophical arguments, this production would be a more satisfying series of dramatic scenes intercut with funny vignettes.

Stone and McInnes create a highlight with a gloriously touching scene in which Alan finds his old friend and former colleague, Wood, suffering dementia, and the pair dance in a poignant and intimate bear hug.

McClory wrenches our hearts as Zoe, a woman devastated by repeated failures of her IVF treatment, and the resulting furious argument with Cousins as her partner Raf is heartbreakingly real.

It is a joy to see Atkinson on stage again and her quirky humour and enchanting persona bring charm to multiple roles, while Ross depicts Kylie with directness and warmth.

This script needs some savage editing to reveal a shorter, more intense and effective piece of theatre that is currently buried under weighty research.

By Kate Herbert

Director: Naomi Edwards
Brett Cousins

William McInnes

Belinda McClory

Kate Atkinson

Greg Stone

Sophie Ross

Greg Stone (Alan), Brett Cousins (Raf), Belinda McClory (Zoe); Photo Jeff Busby

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